Archive for February, 2012

‘Hard times, baby, hard times everywhere I go’


“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress. Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

– Accountant Alan Dlugash, a specialist in financial planning for the wealthy, explaining the heart-rending consequences of reduced bonuses on Wall Street, where bonuses fell to levels last seen in 2008. This year, the average bonus has collapsed by 14 percent, to $121,150.

(Fortunately, the figure doesn’t include stock options or other unrealized, deferred compensation.)

For more on this calamity and its consequences — canceled trips to Aspen, a four-month rental of a summer home reduced to one month, etc. — see this.

– Jay Bookman

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The heartlessness of Ga. anti-abortion bill

NOTE: This is published as the electronic version of today’s AJC column. Portions of this post have appeared earlier on this blog.

Imagine being a happily pregnant couple, 20 weeks along, when things go tragically amiss. Tests reveal that if carried to term, your child will be born without a skull, or perhaps without functioning lungs, which means that upon birth it will begin to die immediately of asphyxiation, with no hope of saving it.

Do you continue the pregnancy, knowing that the child has no chance of survival and that in many cases its “life” will at best consist of a few short hours of intense agony? Or do you end the pregnancy in the best interests of all involved, including that of the doomed fetus?

Some parents, drawing upon their faith and moral precepts, will continue the pregnancy to its tragic end. Others, drawing on their own equally sincere principles, will intervene. It is not a choice that any of us would want to make, and under House Bill 954, approved …

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Romney’s victories much-needed on several counts

Mitt Romney won Arizona easily and took his native Michigan by just three percentage points, but in the end he did take it. That’s good news for the Romney campaign, good news for the Republican Party and good news for the United States of America.

It helps no one to have one of our major political parties take a headlong plunge into fanaticism and willful ignorance. That’s what the nomination of either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum would represent. And while Romney’s pandering makes him a less than stalwart champion against those tendencies, under the circumstances he’ll have to do.

David Brooks described the GOP nominating process well the other day, writing:

” … we’ve had a primary campaign that isn’t really an argument about issues. It’s a series of heresy trials in which each of the candidates accuses the others of tribal impurity. Two kinds of candidates emerge from this process: first, those who are forceful but outside the mainstream; second, those who started out …

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Snowe, R-Maine, ends her re-election bid, will retire

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine, has just dropped a bombshell: She will not be running for re-election later this year.

From her announcement:

“As I have long said, what motivates me is producing results for those who have entrusted me to be their voice and their champion, and I am filled with that same sense of responsibility today as I was on my first day in the Maine House of Representatives. I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.

“With my Spartan ancestry I am a fighter at heart; and I am well prepared for the electoral battle, so that is not the issue. However, what I have had to consider is how productive an additional term would be. Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded …

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GOP continues to misplay auto bailout issue

Any real hope that Republicans may have had of carrying Michigan in November has probably disappeared thanks to the hard-fought GOP primary battle in that state, with Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney bidding for votes among the Republican base by trying to condemn the auto-industry rescue plan more harshly than his opponent.

But just in case, President Obama chose today, as Republican voters were going to the polls, to speak to the United Auto Workers convention and look back at recent history, when it seemed likely that both Chrysler and General Motors would go into liquidation.

Here’s part of what he had to say (full prepared text here):

“With the economy in complete freefall, there weren’t any private companies or investors willing to take a chance on the auto industry. Anyone in the financial sector could tell you that. So we could have kept giving billions of taxpayer dollars to the automakers without demanding real change or accountability in return. But that wouldn’t have …

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Imagine the aftermath of a Romney loss in Michigan

If Mitt Romney loses Michigan tonight — and the polls say that’s possible — you’re gonna see some stuff happen. The Republican Party is gonna look like the scene in “Titanic” when people finally begin to understand: This unsinkable sucker could really go down.


The band warms up the crowd for Mitt Romney's Michigan concession speech?

Such a defeat would not end Romney’s campaign — he has too many resources and too much organization to simply sink beneath the waters. But a loss in his native state would confirm to many of his fellow Republicans that an alternative must be found, and quickly. For Romney, the setback would be significant because it would damage the single most important asset that he possesses, which is credibility. Mr. Inevitable would look more and more like Mr. Inevitable Loser.

But what alternatives do the Republicans have? Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are far more problematic than Romney. I’m beginning to hear strange noises out of Florida, as if Jeb Bush …

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Obama’s poker instincts on view in presidency

The other day I stumbled across a Time magazine piece published back in July 2008, soon after John McCain and Barack Obama had emerged as their parties’ nominees. The premise of the piece was that both men liked to gamble, and that “games of chance have been not just a hobby but also a fundamental feature of their development as people and politicians.”

McCain, for example, loves to play craps, which the piece describes as “a game for showmen, Hollywood stars and basketball legends with girls on their arms.” Dice in hand, money on the table, a crowd gathered along the rails to cheer him on, a craps player basks in attention and adrenalin.

“For McCain, jaunts to the craps table helped burnish his image as a political hot dog who relishes the thrill of a good fight,” the Time piece notes, “even if the risk of failure was high.”

I’m usually wary of pieces that attempt to psycho-analyze candidates, especially when viewed through a single lens such as their choice of gambling …

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Santorum: JFK speech on religion ‘makes you throw up’

In a famous speech in 1960 to a group of Baptist ministers in Houston, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy tried to convince his listeners that he would not take his orders from leaders of his Catholic faith but instead from his own conscience.

“I do not speak for my church on public matters,” Kennedy said, “and the church does not speak for me.”

Here’s the crux of that speech, which is available in its entirety here:

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no …

Continue reading Santorum: JFK speech on religion ‘makes you throw up’ »

Travelin’ down ‘a long and winding road, that leads ….’

According to John Lennon, his bandmate Paul McCartney wrote this song “back in the Cavern days” in Liverpool, which would put McCartney at about 20 years of age.

Today, the 69-year-old McCartney is looking at 64 from the opposite end of the time scale, peering back at it instead of forward to it. When he performs it today, an already wistful little ditty no doubt takes on an even more sepia tone.

But why, you may ask, did I choose to post this now? Well, 33 years ago today, my bride and I said our “I do”s, and the passage of time does make you think a little differently about such things.

Happy Anniversary, Babe.

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?”

– Jay Bookman

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World oil producers quake at prospect of Newt

Rick Perry, now consigned to spinning on behalf of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, this week demonstrated the energy-industry expertise he has gained during his service as Texas governor:

“As a matter of fact, perception is everything in this world we live in, and if the perception is Newt Gingrich could be the next president of the United States, that will have a worldwide effect, I will suggest to you, on the price of oil. And people who watch these markets and people who deal with these markets understand, that when you see the type of approach that he’s talking about — opening up federal lands and waters, opening up that pipeline from Canada, clearly giving incentives to drill in America for domestic energy, and then an all of the above policy, whether it’s wind or nuclear or whatever it might be — that will have a dampening effect on the cost of oil in particular and the other energy prices as well.”

That’s right, just the mere perception that Gingrich could be …

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